Thursday, November 23, 2023

Dark Dweller by Gareth Worthington

Dark Dweller

by Gareth Worthington

November 13-24, 2023 Virtual Book Tour



Captain Kara Psomas was pronounced dead when her research vessel slammed into Jupiter.

More than a century later, the crew of the Paralus, a helium mining freighter, find a pristine escape pod with a healthy young girl nestled inside. A girl who claims to be Kara—and she brings a message of doom.

She says she has been waiting in the dark for that exact moment. To be found by that particular crew. Because an ancient cosmic being has tasked her with a sacred responsibility. She claims she must alter the Fulcrum, a lever in time—no matter the cost to the people aboard—or condemn the rest of civilization to a very painful and drawn-out demise.

She sounds convincing. She appears brave. She might well be insane.

Praise for Dark Dweller:

"... intense, exciting, and nerve-wracking ... taut, tense, and ultimately explosive. A fantastic read not just for science fiction aficionados but for all lovers of adventure."
~ Readers' Favorite

"Dark Dweller is that rare beast of hard sci-fi that can pull off high-end concepts, but also entertain the reader with tension and strong set pieces."
~ SFBook Review

"A story steeped in intrigue, vivid descriptions, and action-packed dialogue."
~ Midwest Book Review

"Epic, bleak, provocative."
~ Indiereader Review

"Knuckle-hard science fiction."
~ Bestsellers World

Dark Dweller Trailer:

Book Details:

Genre: Hard sci Fi mixed with esoteric elements
Published by: Dropship Publishing
Publication Date: February 2023
Number of Pages: 304
ISBN: 9781954386051 (ISBN10: 1954386052)
Book Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | | Goodreads

Read an excerpt:


Dr. Sarah Dallas

"Are you the fucking pilot, Hair?” Boz screams at me, piggy eyes aflame in her round face.

I hate that moniker: Hair. Not important right now. The fact we’re going to die is. “No, I’m not, but—”

“Then stay in your lane and shut your hole.”

Breathe, Sarah. Don’t punch her. You’re the ship’s counselor. Be professional. Do not punch her. The mantra rings over and over in my skull, but Boz tests every ounce of my training. There are four of us on this twelve-year round trip. Assaulting the pilot isn’t the best idea.

I release a very measured breath and fix my attention on the largest planet in our solar system looming large in the viewfinder of our liner—the Paralus. Jupiter is enormous, its surface banded with reddish-brown and off-white clouds, rushing and crashing into one other. Its one angry red eye stares at us, at me.

My supposed intellect short-circuits as I try to quantify and categorize. In the face of something truly awe-inspiring my tiny human biological computer is unable, or refuses, to comprehend the sheer magnitude of this world. Yet my limbic system must have some ancient recollection of dealing with overwhelming reverence, forcing a rush of adrenaline through my bloodstream and into my trembling muscles.

Just look at it.

The Paralus shudders as we hurtle into the upper atmosphere. Jupiter has a will of its own, intent on sucking us into its gassy interior. Ironic, given we’re here to grab its vapors. Helium-3 to be specific, to act as cryogenic coolant for our nuclear fusion reactors at home and space stations set out along the Interplanetary Transport Network. Jupiter has helium in spades, while Earth has precious little, and so now we risk our lives on ridiculously dangerous missions to mine the ether. In the age of interplanetary travel and colonization, profit trumps human life—as always.

Metal squeals and the hull creaks. The luminous tabs and keys beneath crystal glass control panels stutter and flicker. Even the slick white walls and soothing curves of the Bridge’s interior can’t muffle the complaints of the frail, human-made underpinnings.

A tear slips from the corner of my eye and my knuckles are white as I grip the armrests.

“Are you crying?” Boz yells, peeling her stare from the enormous viewfinder to gawk in disgust at me for daring to have any emotion other than anger.

“We’re coming in too hot,” I press, flitting a concerned frown from Boz to the planet and back again in hopes she takes the hint to watch where the hell she’s going. “Can’t the AI take over?”

“Which part of shut up isn’t penetrating all that hair?” Boz clicks her tongue, then tweaks on the thruster yokes. Sweat beads on her forehead. “I got this, Dallas. Now back off.”

I wriggle back in my seat and adjust the harness again. Everyone hates a backseat driver, but if she gets this wrong Jupiter will seize the Paralus and we’ll never have enough thrust to escape. We’ll either be torn to shreds or crushed like a tin can. Either one a shitty way to go.

Our freighter shakes like a rag doll in the mouth of a puppy, the nuts and bolts of this dilapidated piece of junk threatening to come loose. The Paralus is fragile as all hell and entirely breakable—the sort of construction a five-year-old makes out of drinking straws and modeling clay. A mile-long needle with a nuclear fusion engine at the aft end, a Scoop and transport shuttle docking bay, the AI mainframe in the center, and two spinning rings: one for cargo, and one for medbay, exercise room and living quarters. Ops, also called the Bridge, sits right in the nose.

Perfect for a front-row seat to our doom.

“Still too much speed,” Boz says. “Increasing retro-thruster burn.”

Will that do anything? The main retro-thrusters have been firing while we’re asleep for months now, slowing us to enter orbit correctly, which sounds great on paper but—given the heap of shit we’re in—means diddly squat.

“Boz, keep her steady,” Commander Chau calls from his chair.

“I’m trying, sir,” she yells back.

“Tris?” Chau says loud enough to be heard over the din of warping metal punctuated at regular intervals by the warning alarm.

“The trajectory is off, something’ changed,” Tris Beckert, our co-pilot and chief engineer, replies in his Texan drawl. “Jupiter’s not where we predicted. It’s not a big ol’ shift, but enough.”

I swear my ass just clenched hard enough to make a button on the seat. A ton of unmanned craft have slammed into their destination planet or just whizzed on by into space forever. I’m no astrophysicist, but was once told reaching a target in space like standing on Everest and firing a bullet at a pea-sized target on the other side of the Earth.

“We’re comin’ in a little steep,” Tris says, tapping away at his readout. “AI is helpin’ Boz compensate—”

The alarm blares again.

“Warning, orbital entry path suboptimal,” says a synthetic, sonorous voice from overhead.

Only an AI could so calmly announce our deaths.

“Yes, I fucking know, Dona,” Boz spits back. “Reverse thrusters won’t do it. Gotta skip over the atmosphere. Just need to burn more delta-v.”

The Paralus lurches under a burst from the engines. The horizon of Jupiter fills the viewfinder, its swirling fumes mixing like milk and coffee in a fresh latte. A fresh latte? Shut up, Sarah.

On the horizon, flashes of white light, tinged with green edges, emanate from just below Jupiter’s cloud line.

Tris shoots a worried look at Boz.

“Asteroids exploding on impact?” she yells without breaking her concentration.

“I don’t think so,” Tris shouts back.

“You better fucking hope not or we’re about to get cratered,” Boz says.

Cratered. Great. Pebble-dashed with chunks of space rock. The spindly nature of the Paralus helps it to not be a gigantic target, but it only takes one puncture and we’re all screwed.

Why am I here, again?

“Hold on to your pantyhose,” Boz says, perspiration running down her temples.

The Paralus is battered, a pathetic kite in impossibly strong winds, as we plunge farther into the outer atmosphere of Jupiter. The viewfinder is near black—sunlight can no longer penetrate the violent vapors assaulting us. Multiple feeds from external cameras cycle on and off, but offer no help.

Boz roars long and loud, heaving on the yokes while Tris taps away at his console, calculating and recalculating—pinging his very human assumptions off the computations of the AI. Chau sits, smooth jaw set and stoic, his narrowed sights fixed on some imaginary endpoint to this nightmare of an orbital entry. He looks oddly calm.

I squeeze my eyes shut and mumble a prayer, though to whom I don’t know. God, Yahweh, Allah. Anyone who’ll listen. In moments of extreme stress, time seems to slow, the human mind suddenly able to function on some higher level, absorbing all the information it can in hopes of averting disaster. Behind my eyelids, in a weird half-dream, half-out-of-body experience, I see myself clinging to the harness. Observing the cowardly pose fills my astral-projected self with shame, which only grows with the knowledge I’m not praying for loved ones at home who might miss me when I’m gone, but to make it out alive so I can go on ignoring them for a little longer.

Except for Dad, always have time for Dad.

The shuddering stops.

I open my eyes. The last wisps of Jupiter’s atmosphere slip past revealing vast, open space. Here, unadulterated with the light of human cities, the universe is alive. The light from the smallest of stars reaches out to me from across the expanse. The feeling of relief at still being alive is replaced with nausea. The same feeling one gets when peering into a pitch-black well, wondering how far down it goes. We came so close to death, but what difference would it make? The universe doesn’t care. Look at how big it is.

“Jesus fucking Christ,” Boz says, slumping back in her chair.

“Hey now,” Tris pipes up.

“Sorry, Tris.”

She’s not sorry. Tris doesn’t like too much swearing, but Boz does it anyway. Several times a day. So do I, just in my head. Isn’t that what we all do? Hide a little piece of who we are to placate others. To survive society. But again, it’s hard to care when you’re out here knowing the cosmos really doesn’t give a rat’s ass what we do. The desire to let loose a string of expletives nearly overwhelms me. Nearly.

“I want to know what happened,” Chau says, his expression cold like granite. “How could our trajectory be that off?”

“It wasn’t,” Tris replies, shaking his head. “I told you, Jupiter moved.”

Chau narrows his eyes. “Not possible.”

“Engineer Tris is correct,” the AI says, its tone unchanging. “Jupiter’s orbital path appears to have altered.”

“How the hell is that possible?” Boz asks.

“Ya’ll got me,” Tris replies, tapping at his screen. “Some kinda gravitational irregularity?”

“Affecting Jupiter?” Chau says, one eyebrow raised. “Jupiter moves celestial bodies, not the other way around.”

Tris shrugs. “I’ll look into it.”

“Fine, but after the grab,” Chau says.

“I need to get us back into a proper orbit,” Boz says, already tapping away at her console. “That’s gonna take a while. We had to burn long and hard to skip over the atmosphere. It’s gonna be like turning a galactic Buick.”

“Do it,” Chau says.

“Um.” As the word leaves my lips I wish it hadn’t.

All eyes fix on me.

Shit. Well done, Sarah. Best follow through now. “Is that an aerostat in our flight path?”

“What are you talking about, Doctor,” Boz says.

I point out of the main window.

The crew follows the imaginary path from my fingertip out into space and to the spheroid metallic object. “If that’s an aerostat, it’ll do a lot of damage if we hit it.” Though they’re flexible, colliding with one of these weather stations dropped into the atmosphere to monitor the constant violent storms would fuck us up.

“That ain’t an aerostat, that’s a ship,” Tris says, squinting. “Too far out of the atmosphere. Wrong shape.”

“Are we going to hit … whatever that is?” Chau asks.

Boz shakes her head. “We’re headed out. Seems it’s geo-synched, in orbit.”

“You’re eyeballing it?” I ask.

Boz glares at me. “How about you let me do my job, Dallas?”

Chau holds up his hand. “Enough. What do we do about it?”

Tris clears his throat. “ITN protocol says we have to prioritize the grab, but … this is a little unorthodox. There’s no precedent for an alien ship.” He shoots a nervous glance at Chau.

Chau sniffs hard. “There’s no evidence to suggest it’s an alien ship. How close will we come to it?”

Tris’s fingers flit across his console at lightning speed. Then, with a dramatic swipe, he sends the flight path file from his panel to Boz who looks it over.

“Within a hundred feet,” Boz says. “Just like I said.”

Yes, Boz, I get it— you’re a genius and I’m an idiot. Seriously, Sarah, hold it together. “Do we need to adjust?”

“If we try that, we’ll push ourselves further out,” Tris says, “and it’ll take longer to re-enter synchronized orbit.”

“At a hundred feet we can get a pretty good look at it, though, right?” I say.

Tris nods. “I’d get a window seat now, because we’re about to zip by.”

We, of course, aren’t going to unbuckle and float over to the large window, so we all just fall into a confused silence and fix our attention to the small vessel that is fast approaching—or rather the one that we are fast approaching.

Could this really be alien? Are we the first humans to encounter other intelligent life? Finding microbes on Mars some fifty years ago was a little anticlimactic, especially at a time when humankind had finally started to pay consideration to our own dying world. Too little too late. But a spaceship? Maybe this crappy trip was worth it after all.

The alien vessel is now large enough in the viewfinder to study it a little better. Too damn close if you ask me, but hey, I’m just the shrink right?

Boz glances over her shoulder at Chau. The two of them don’t cross words, but exchange an unspoken question.

They’re right to be confused. What the hell is going on?

The ship, or pod, is roughly egg-shaped, and in the outer lights of the Paralus seems to be grey in color. No windows. Small rear thrusters. And an ITN insignia.

“Holy shit,” Boz says. “It’s an escape pod.”

“Did the last liner report a pod ejection?” Chau asks.

“Not to my knowledge,” Boz says. “Tris?”

The Texan shakes his head. “I got no record of that.”

“Those markings, they’re old,” I pipe up. “See the logo? Saturn is included now, since the expansion. This is pre-rebrand, done more than twenty years ago. Actually, that looks even older. Museum old.” That tidbit of information only serves to remind them who I am, how I’m here, and that they really don’t like me or my family. Shit.

“Chief,” Tris says. “We gotta see what’s over there. I can take a Scoop.”

Chau looks to Boz.

She just shrugs. “I have to swing her around Jupiter to get us into orbit. I can use the gravity to catapult us ’round and come up on the pod again. Give us time to gear up.”

Chau tents his fingertips. “How will that affect the grab?”

“Well, it’ll delay it,” Tris says, rubbing at his square jaw. “But Jupiter isn’t going anywhere.”

“Didn’t you just say it moved?” My lips try to hang on to the last word as if I can suck back the regrettably snarky remark.

Tris pinches his lips together and gives a subtle shake of his head.

You’re right Tris; shut up, Sarah.

“Oh man, we best still be haulin’ when we return,” Boz says, and shoots me a look as if this whole thing is somehow my fault. “Only get paid if we have a load.”

Hauling back Helium is all anyone gives a shit about, because it means getting paid. Helium is this century’s gold rush. This is hilarious, given I’ve listened to enough company speeches to know that helium is the second most abundant element in the universe. The problem is, while God was handing out the element, He—or She or It—seemed to skip Earth. Our planet’s crust is probably not even in the parts per billion range. In the Earth’s atmosphere, it’s only 5.2 parts per million per volume. So, Jupiter is our reservoir, our lifeline. Still, the ITN has protocols for situations like this. The pod could pose a threat to continued mining. Though no idea what kind of threat, not my wheelhouse. “I think the ITN are gonna call this one,” I add. “Something like this will trump a helium grab. The AI has probably locked all systems anyway. We won’t get to do the job yet.”

Boz tuts again.

“You are correct, Dr. Dallas,” the AI says. “Current mission suspended until investigation completed.”

Chau tents his fingertips. “The faster we clear that pod, the faster we get back on mission.”

Everyone unbuckles and swims out of the only door in or out of the Bridge. Boz gives me a long, hard, disapproving stare, but Tris flashes a grin. Chau doesn’t even bother to acknowledge me. For him, a shrink has two jobs on these freighters: make sure the crew don’t lose their minds in deep space, and stay the hell out of the way.

So far, no-one’s lost their marbles, yet.


Excerpt from Dark Dweller by Gareth Worthington. Copyright 2023 by Gareth Worthington. Reproduced with permission from Gareth Worthington. All rights reserved.



Author Bio:

Gareth Worthington

Gareth Worthington holds a degree in marine biology, a PhD in Endocrinology, an executive MBA, is Board Certified in Medical Affairs, and currently works for the Pharmaceutical industry educating the World's doctors on new cancer therapies.

Gareth is an authority in ancient history, has hand-tagged sharks in California, and trained in various martial arts, including Jeet Kune Do and Muay Thai at the EVOLVE MMA gym in Singapore and 2FIGHT Switzerland.

He is an award-winning author and member of the International Thriller Writers Association, Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, and the British Science Fiction Association.

Born in England, Gareth has lived around the world from Asia, to Europe to the USA. Wherever he goes, he endeavors to continue his philanthropic work with various charities.

Gareth is represented by Renee Fountain and Italia Gandolfo at Gandolfo Helin Fountain Literary, New York.

Catch Up With Gareth Worthington:
BookBub - @GarethWorthington
Instagram - @garethworthington
Twitter/X - @DrGWorthington
Facebook - @garethworthingtonauthor
YouTube - @garethworthington7564



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My Take: I didn't use to read t many Sci Fi books but recently I have been enjoying quite a few. This book was an interesting story. It was a little slow to begin but the last part was a whirlwind of action and adventure. For those of you who care the main character Sarah is gay although nothing was acted on other than to state she was gay. Also the ships doctor went by the pronouns they/them and it was never revealed if they were male or female which for me was bit like reading improper English but I got use to it by the end of the book. There was also more profanity than I personally like but it might not bother you. The story overall was ok and I was wondering how it was going to resolve itself. I felt for the young girl Kara who seems to be under the influence of an outside force that is bent on destroying the human race. I enjoyed this book and gave it a three stars out of five because the beginning was so slow. I received a review copy of this book from Partners in Crime book tours and was not required to write a positive review, all opinions are my own.

Wednesday, October 18, 2023

The Lost Boys of Barlow Theater by Jaime Jo Wright

The Lost Boys of Barlowe Theater

by Jaime Jo Wright

October 9 - 20, 2023 Virtual Book Tour


The Lost Boys of Barlowe Theater by Jaime Jo Wright

It promises beauty but steals life instead. Will the ghosts of Barlowe Theater entomb them all?

Barlowe Theater stole the life of Greta Mercy's eldest brother during its construction. Now in 1915, the completed theater appears every bit as deadly. When Greta's younger brother goes missing after breaking into the building, Greta engages the assistance of a local police officer to help her unveil the already ghostly secrets of the theater. But when help comes from an unlikely source, Greta decides that to save her family she must uncover the evil that haunts the theater and put its threat to rest.

Decades later, Kit Boyd's best friend vanishes during a ghost walk at the Barlowe Theater, and old stories of mysterious disappearances and ghoulish happenings are revived. Then television ghost-hunting host and skeptic Evan Fisher joins Kit in the quest to identify the truth behind the theater's history. Kit reluctantly agrees to work with him in hopes of finding her missing friend. As the theater's curse unravels Kit's life, she is determined to put an end to the evil that has marked the theater and their hometown for the last century.

Praise for The Lost Boys of Barlowe Theater:

"Jaime Jo Wright takes readers on a journey that leaves them with a renewed sense of hope... Read this story. You won't be sorry."
~ Lynette Eason, bestselling, award-winning author of the Extreme Measures series

Book Details:

Genre: Romantic Suspense, Christian, Historical
Published by: Bethany House Publishers
Publication Date: October 2023
Number of Pages: 384
ISBN: 9780764241444
Book Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | | Goodreads | ChristianBook | Baker Book House

Read an excerpt:

Chapter 1

Greta Mercy


Sometimes death came quietly. A phantom swooping in and siphoning the last remnant of a soul from one’s body, leaving behind a shell of a person who once was and would never be again. Other times, death decided that dramatics coupled with terror were its preferred method of delivery. Tonight, that was the chosen form death took.

Screams echoed throughout the theater’s golden, embellished auditorium and drifted upward to the domed, hand-­painted ceiling, where Putti flew as angelic, childlike spirits over the mass of onlookers.

A shoulder rammed into Greta’s arm as a husky man, far too large for the narrow seats, pushed his way past her toward the center aisle.

“Let me pass!” he barked. Urgency spurred him forward. “I’m a doctor, let me pass!”

The vaudeville lights on either side of the stage boasted letters a through g, with the g lit and distinct over the other letters.

“I’m letter g!” The doctor shouted while those in front of him jostled to the side or hurried ahead to move out of his way. Doctors were assigned specific letters from the vaudeville lights, and if they were lit, a doctor was needed—­either at home, on call, or in the vicinity.

The vicinity was here. It was now.

Onlookers continued to gasp and protest. Women in beautiful silks and satins hurried to the back to find respite in the upstairs ladies’ room. Men in evening wear catapulted over seats and to the floor on the far left of the auditorium.

Greta was frozen in place, her seat having flipped up against its back so she could move. But her eyes were fixed with horror on the scene unfolding. They lifted to one of the box seats above the floor, where men, including the doctor, were congregating en masse. The gilded box was a flurry of activity. A man embraced a woman, who fought and clawed at his hold. Her screams had many onlookers staring at her, including the performer in her violet gown and befeathered hair. Moments before, her vocals had swirled around them all in a cadence of beauty and refined music. Now, her mouth was open, her face pale, her entire pose aghast. She had captured an enthralled audience, all whose gazes toward the stage had kept them from seeing what Greta had seen. Greta, who shouldn’t have been here to begin with. She didn’t belong with the pomp and circumstance, the heady scent of perfume and cologne, which made her mind thick and her eyes wander. They’d wandered to the box seat, and she’d witnessed what no one else had. The white hands stretching, reaching over the side,
dangling . . .

“It was a child!” The horrified cry slipped for the third time from Greta’s lips. She could hear herself screaming and was unable to stop. Her screams had ripped through the performance as the child in a white nightdress plummeted into the shadows of the floor’s obscure corner.

The woman in the box seat had been pulled from view, its red velvet curtain shut swiftly.

“It was a baby!” Greta rasped out as horror strangled her.

“Greta. It’s all right.” The reassuring voice of her friend, Eleanor Boyd, as well as the comforting grip on Greta’s arm finally stilled her.

Greta focused again on her friend—­her wealthy friend who should not be her friend at all.

Eleanor’s blue eyes were round with fear that must mirror Greta’s own. Her blond curls swept upward and were twisted with pearls. Her dress was a baby-­blue silk. Any other moment, Greta would have soaked in the awe that tonight she, Greta Boyd, who could barely keep her family fed and clothed, was sitting among the elite, pretending to be one of them. But now? It hardly mattered. The borrowed corset that tucked in her waistline, the aged but wearable pink dress she had borrowed from Eleanor, and even the gloves she wore on her dry, cracked hands—­none of them mattered now.

“What happened? What did you see?” Eleanor clutched at Greta’s arm.

Greta couldn’t reply. The sheer magnitude of the moment, the honor of being in the audience of the Barlowe Theater had been overwhelming . . . until she’d seen it. The baby launched over the side of the box seat. Like a cherub from the mural above, it had taken flight before it disappeared.

Greta’s knees gave out, and she fell to where her seat should have been had it not folded in on itself. Her hip struck the polished wood arm.

“Greta!” Eleanor reached for her.

Greta felt Eleanor’s brother on her other side, grabbing for her waist to give her support. But it was too late. She had collapsed to the narrow walkway between the seats. Her knees hit the carpeted floor.

Was she the only person who had seen death’s swift visitation tonight? The only one who had witnessed its evil intent as it ripped the babe forcefully from its mother’s arms?

It wouldn’t survive. It could not. The fall was too far, too great.

Death had decided to match the theater’s reputation for drama and awe. Greta couldn’t tear her gaze from where she’d seen the small form disappear on its way to its resting place on the floor of the Barlowe Theater.

The babe had slipped. No, it had been tossed. Its mother’s screams still echoed from the hallway beyond the curtain. Those in the crowd cried “Accident,” “Traumatic mishap,” and other such things. But Greta knew differently. She had known before she came tonight, and she should have stayed away.

Barlowe Theater was not a place that brought joy and entertainment, as was its supposed purpose. No, it had already taken lives in the construction of it, tortured the ones who dared stand in its way, and now it was hunting those innocents who had happened into the shadows of its deadly interior. The theater was cursed.

Kit Boyd


Death stuck with a place. Once the blood had seeped into the carpet, the flooring, the walls, it stayed there, long after the stains were removed. They were the testament to lives robbed of their rightful journey through time. Cut short. Obliterated. B

Barlowe Theater was not a place that brought joy and entertainment, as was its supposed purpose. No, it had already taken lives in the construction of it, tortured the ones who dared stand in its way, and now it was hunting those innocents who had happened into the shadows of its deadly interior. The theater was cursed.

Kit Boyd

ludgeoned into nonexistence. Smothered by the grave, burrowed into by the worms—


Fingers snapped in front of Kit Boyd’s face, and she startled out of her staring into the dark, narrow stairwell that led beneath the stage of the Barlowe Theater.

“Get with it, bruh.” The fingers snapped again. Kit looked up at the taller man beside her. He was overweight and smelled like pizza, but he had a nice face. His name was Tom, they’d told her, the crew from the TV show Psychic and the Skeptic.

“Sorry.” Kit offered him a wince. She’d paused on the first concrete step while her best friend, Madison, the psychic medium, Heather Grant, and the skeptic investigator, Evan Fischer, disappeared into the bowels of the theater. Tom the cameraman was held back by her hesitation. She gave him a warning look, though the theater’s darkness in the midnight atmosphere probably hid most of her expression. “You do know people died here . . . have disappeared here.”

“That’s the point.” Tom waved her forward, the camera on his shoulder blinking a red light. “But I need to catch them on film if I can, and you’re in my way.”

Fabulous. She was on camera. That would probably make the show too. Kit Boyd, the quirky sidekick to Madison Farrington, the historical activist, the beauty, the granddaughter of the town’s ambitious CEO of all things expansion, modern, and money-­making.

“Hello?” There was definite irritation in Tom’s voice.

“I’m going! I’m going.” Kit hurried down the steps. She’d taken them many times before. Anyone who was native to Kipper’s Grove, Wisconsin, had grown up in the Barlowe Theater at one point or another. Dancers had tapped and glided across its stage in recitals, high school glee clubs with dreams of Broadway had warbled off-­key through its hall, and the local theater guild had put on such plays as Arsenic and Old Lace and The Music Man. Kit hadn’t been in any of those. Instead, she was the one backstage handing bottles of water to the performers, smiling and cracking jokes to encourage the stage-­frozen little six-­year-­old dressed in a yellow tutu with glitter on her cheeks.

“Oh, c’mon!” Tom hissed, his irritation past the point of being hidden. How he’d gotten behind her anyway was a faux pas for filming. He was supposed to stick close to the stars of the show, Heather and Evan. And boy, did those two get along famously—­not.

“Whew!” Kit wheezed under her breath, not caring if Tom heard. “I’d try to avoid those two if you could.”

“Yeah, well, I have a job to do.” Tom squeezed past Kit as she hugged the cement-­block wall at the bottom of the stairs to let him through. He elbowed her arm and didn’t bother to apologize. He probably felt as if she owed him that luxury. The luxury of being annoyed.

Okay, fine. She did.

If she was being honest, Kit wasn’t a fan of the Barlowe Theater past dark. Which was the cliché of all theaters built just after the turn of the century. It was dark. Haunted. The place was like a tomb. Crank up some vaudeville music and the place became a literal haunted house of horrors for Halloween. And Kit hated Halloween. The darkness, the Gothic look and feel, Halloween was for morbid people who thought Edgar Allan Poe was romantic in his mystery and lore instead of macabre and bleak. Hadn’t he died questionably? She’d heard a podcast once that claimed the poet might have been murdered, contrary to the popular belief that his death had been the result of some fatal malady undiagnosed.

Kit shook her head to clear her thoughts. Mom said cobwebs couldn’t possibly gather in her head because she had too many ideas. Mom was right. Kit would never be accused of having an underactive imagination.

A finger jabbed into the back of her shoulder.

“Stop it!” Kit spun to glare at the offender.

No one was there.

Her skin began crawling. “Gahhhhhh!” She waved her hands wildly at the unseen ghost finger. Probably her imagination, but whatever. She had let Madison sucker her into a ghost hunt for the popular ghost-­hunting television show. This was her penance? Getting poked by an elusive spirit?

“Sorry, God.” Kit mumbled an apology to the Almighty, who was probably rolling His eyes at their attempts to mess with the spirit world. But this was Madison. She believed anything was possible. Kit had been raised to believe that this type of anything was probably demonic. There had to be a middle ground. Hadn’t there?

Kit hurried around the corner, stubbing her toe on a bolt that rose half an inch up from the floor. Dampness and time had warped the theater’s floor, making it uneven. She leaned against the wall, rubbing her bare toe. Flip-­flops on a ghost hunt. Bad idea.

She looked around—­well, as best as she could. The basement was dark, as were the dressing rooms to her right, sized like prison cells. The short hall to her left leading directly below the stage was also dark.

“Hello, darkness,” Kit crooned quietly, craning her neck to peer ahead. “Hello?” she tried again, this time louder.

No answer.

“Seriously, someone?” Kit was beginning to share Tom the cameraman’s annoyance now. Two argumentative television stars, her best friend, and a cameraman didn’t just vanish within minutes. The basement wasn’t that huge.

But it was Barlowe Theater.

Tom?” Kit hissed, daring a few steps into the dank blackness. “Madison?”

Again, no one answered. The only light was a flickering bulb that had to be a wattage short of worth having at all. It buzzed too. Of course it did. If this stunt was for show
dramatics . . .

“Madison!” Kit shouted. In the ten years since they’d graduated high school, she had followed this woman around. She was owed some loyalty in return. “If this is for ratings, it’s unkind of you!” Kit yelled. Her words echoed back at her.


Light slammed into her face, blinding Kit. She raised her hands as the flashlight’s beam collided with her eyes.

“They’re gone!” It was Tom.

Kit could see the whites of his eyes just beyond the flashlight he swung around wildly.

“What do you mean?” Kit tried to take captive Tom’s arm as he flooded the hallway with the light, then a dressing room, then the ceiling. His camera wasn’t on his shoulder.

He wasn’t filming.

Kit’s throat tightened. Okay, that wasn’t a good sign. “Where’s Madison?”

Tom swung the light back in Kit’s face. “Where’s Evan? Where’s Heather? Where’s my team?” His voice shook with undisguised concern, turning fast into panic. “How big is this place?”

“Not that big.” Kit pushed past him. Concerned now. This had gone too far. Madison and her harebrained schemes to keep her own grandfather from ruining the historic downtown. Make it famous, she said. Put it on TV, she said. Make viewers defend Kipper’s Grove, she said. “Madison!” Kit shouted, anxiousness seeping into her voice. “Stop this! It’s not funny!”

Tom’s light bounced on the floor in front of them as Kit spun around and marched back toward him. She shoved past his husky chest and down the short passage to the door leading under the stage. Her fingers curled around the doorknob, its old mechanics making it wobbly beneath her grip.

Kit jerked it open.

She fell back with a shriek, colliding with Tom, who had come way too close behind her.

Heather, the medium from the show, stood stock-­still facing them. Her eyes were wide and unfocused, her skin white in the flashlight’s glow.

“She’s gone.” Heather’s monotone voice filtered through the passage.

Kit words were stolen from her as her stomach dropped.

“Who’s gone?” Tom demanded.

“Madison.” Evan Fischer, the cohost, the skeptic, and the all-­around grumpy hero of the show strode past his partner. Heather’s expression didn’t waver as her eyes remained fixated on . . . whatever she was staring at in the spirit world beyond. “Madison’s gone.”

Evan left less than a few inches between his face and Kit’s as he bent his six-­foot frame down to meet her five-­foot-­four one. “Where is she?”

“I don’t kn—”

“Where. Is. She?” He cut off Kit’s answer as unsatisfactory.

Her breaths came shorter, faster. She could feel Tom behind her. She was sandwiched between him and Evan, with Heather staring into the great abyss.

“I told you. I don’t know.” Kit heard the quaver in her voice. She shoved her trembling hands into her pockets.

“She’s gone.” Evan slapped the wall, glaring at Tom, who was speechless. “Is this a scam? A stunt?”

Kit couldn’t answer. Of course, the show would think it was a ploy by Madison. A publicity ploy. But it went deeper than that. Far deeper. Kit sagged against the wall, the air not reaching her lungs as it should.

She prayed then. Prayed that Madison really was messing with them. That she had simply gone too far ahead beneath the stage and left them behind.

But the theater was hungry, and everyone in Kipper’s Grove knew it was only a matter of time before this hunger added to the stories of death and spirits. That’s how the theater was, after all. Drama. Suspense. And the unearthly way that such things drifted through its rafters.


Excerpt from The Lost Boys of Barlowe Theater by Jaime Jo Wright. Copyright 2023 by Jaime Sundsmo. Reproduced with permission from Baker Publishing Group. All rights reserved.



Author Bio:

Jaime Jo Wright

Jaime Jo Wright is the author of nine novels, including Christy Award and Daphne du Maurier Award winner The House on Foster Hill and Carol Award winner The Reckoning at Gossamer Pond. She's also the Publishers Weekly and ECPA bestselling author of two novellas. Jaime lives in Wisconsin with her cat named Foo; her husband, Cap'n Hook; and their two mini-adults, Peter Pan and CoCo.

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My Take: This is the first time I have read anything by Jaime Jo Wright but I have only heard good things so I wanted to give her a shot. This is a dual timeline and it was pretty evenly keeled. I liked the current timeline better but that is usually how I like the timelines lately. Both of the timelines were good at bringing the story ahead. The later timeline involved a family group that consisted of an older sister and her younger sibling brothers. She saw something when she went to the theater with friends and she was told she was mistaken. Her brother that was the next one after her went to the theater to try and prove she was right. That is were the lost boys in the title comes from. The newer timeline consist of Kit trying to find out find out what happened to her friend Madison after she vanishes. I found the story very interesting and I will be searching out other books by Jaime Jo Wright. I received a review copy of this book from Partners in Crime tours and was not required to write a positive review.

Saturday, October 14, 2023

The Jade Labyrinth by Alana Mackenzie

This is my post during the blog tour for The Jade Labyrinth by Alanna Mackenzie . In The Jade Labyrinth a young rebel leader undertakes a perilous mission to reprogram the artificially intelligent rulers of a colonial empire, traversing through hostile landscapes and braving grueling mental and physical challenges. This blog tour is organized by Lola's Blog Tours and the tour runs from 2 till 15 October. You can see the tour schedule here: b log-tour-the-jade-labyrinth-by- alanna-mackenzie The Jade Labyrinth (The Jade Chronicles #3) By Alanna Mackenzie Genre: Science Fiction/ Fantasy Age category: Young Adult Release Date: 12 September, 2023 Blurb: A meeting. A maze. A perilous journey back to an Empire on the edge of chaos. Walter Saltanetska, leader of the Jade Rebellion, is nearly ready to return to the heart of the AI-ruled Empire that has branded him a treasonous fugitive. His mandate is clear: to reprogram the AI Masters before their earth-destroying habits spiral out of control. First, he must brave gruelling training in a land fraught with danger—rugged mountains haunted by spirits, a parched desert patrolled by watchful drones, and a labyrinthine cave guarded by armed robots. As his physical, mental, and magical abilities are tested by harrowing encounters, Walter must work to resist forces that threaten to destabilize his mission. The biggest threat he faces is not one he encounters along the course of his journey, but one that originates within him. Walter returns to the Empire’s capital in a mind-altering disguise that proves to be a double-edged sword. Drawing him closer to a soul mate who rekindles his admiration for the AI Masters, it also distances Walter from the human emotions that sparked his desire to join the Rebellion. In his final showdown with the AI Masters, Walter must keep his mind under control, or risk jeopardizing the mission that he and his allies are counting on to reverse a looming tidal wave of destruction. The thrilling third installment in The Jade Chronicles, The Jade Labyrinth weaves dystopian science-fiction with high fantasy while exploring an essential subject: the perils and promise of artificial intelligence. Links: - Goodreads: alanna-mackenzie - Amazon: - Barnes & Noble: ean=2940185922385 Earlier books in the series: The Jade Rebellion: The Jade Talisman: About the Author: Alanna Mackenzie lives in Vancouver, Canada. She holds degrees in History, French studies, and Law from the University of British Columbia. An environmentalist at heart, she believes in using the law as a tool for social and environmental change. When she is not pursuing that passion, she can be found brainstorming the next chapter in her novels, playing Irish fiddle tunes on the violin, and hiking West Coast trails. Author links: - Website: - Facebook: - Twitter: - Goodreads: - Amazon: Giveaway There is a tour wide giveaway for the blog tour of The Jade Labyrinth. One winner wins copies of the following three books: The Jade Rebellion, The Jade Talisman and The Jade Labyrinth. For a chance to win, enter the rafflecopter below: a Rafflecopter giveaway

The Jade Talisman by Alanna Mackenzie

A talisman. A song. A gift that bends time, and alters the course of destiny itself. It is the year 2762 in the Empire of Khalendar, and AI Masters rule the civilized world, striving to crush all dissent. But they have not yet managed to quell the Jade Rebellion or its leader, Walter Saltanetska. The rebels have sailed beyond the Empire’s borders to the infamous isle of Vei’arash. Their mission is to find animal spirits exiled long ago by the AI Masters, and return them to the mainland. With any luck, the spirits will strengthen the fading magical powers of their allies, the Western Mages, and join the battle against their oppressive rulers. As the rebels plunge deeper into the jungle, physical laws are upended. The plants and animals of the rainforest are inextricably linked to divine beings. An ancient shaman-god entrusts Walter with the Jade Talisman, an enchanted gemstone that warps the basic rules of time and space. The Talisman allows Walter to gaze into a mesmerizing labyrinth of future possibilities. But the visions it offers up are troublingly dark, giving Walter insight into the potential fates of himself and his loved ones. This gift proves to be a crushing burden, and Walter desperately longs for an ordinary life. But there is no going back… The gripping sequel to The Jade Rebellion, The Jade Talisman explores whether nature and spirituality are capable of persevering in a world dominated by the cold logic of artificial intelligence. My Take: This book is a great followup to the first book and it follows Walter as he tries to save nature from the AI Masters. It is very up close and personal this time and you feel like you are with Walter as he goes about his business of meeting the elders in the small villages. this series is a wake up call to us about what could happen if we aren't vigilant with AI. I received a review copy from Lola's Book tours and was not required to write a psotive review.

The Jade Rebellion by Alanna Mackenzie

A reckoning. A rebellion. The worlds of artificial intelligence and ancient magic collide. ​​Crystal City glistens with diamonds, but its dazzling beauty comes at a deadly price. The capital of Khalendar thrives on a steady supply of gemstones from the neighboring Barrens, a colony of the Empire. Walter Saltanetska translates AI code for the Khalendar government, helping to breathe life into the ambitious vision of the AI Masters. When Walter discovers a terrible secret which could destroy the life of his lover, Elaine, he decides to tell her despite strict orders to keep what he translates confidential. What begins as a catastrophe eventually grows into a rebellion. Elaine is taken captive by the AI Masters, and Walter must do everything in his power to rescue her. He starts his quest with a single goal in mind, finding Elaine, but along the way Walter discovers that saving her is only a small part of his destiny. During his travels, he encounters a long-lost relative, a warrior matriarch, and a mystical kingdom forgotten to time. Yet Walter's true journey occurs not in physical space, but the captivating depths of his mind. An inventive blend of dystopian science-fiction and fantasy, the Jade Rebellion explores whether we can overcome technological determinism by preserving history, nature, spirituality, and ultimately, our humanity. My Take: If you like AI in your science fiction then this is the series for you. There is love and rebellion and unkderhanded apy stuff going on and I am here for all of it. This is a dystopian take on the future and with all the talk about AI lately I don't see it as being very far into the future. I would recommend ready the whole series as it helps paint a picture. I received a review copy of this book and the other two books from Lola's Book Tours and was not required to write a positive review.

Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Facing The Enemy by Diann Mills

Facing The Enemy by DiAnn Mills Banner

Facing The Enemy

by DiAnn Mills

September 4 - 29, 2023 Virtual Book Tour


Facing The Enemy by DiAnn Mills

For the past five years, FBI Special Agent Risa Jacobs has worked in the violent crimes against children division of the Houston FBI. She’s never had reason to believe there’s a target on her back . . . until now.

When the long-awaited reunion between Risa and her brother, Trenton, ends in tragedy, Risa is riddled with guilt, unable to cope with the responsibility she feels over his death. On leave from the FBI, Risa returns to her former career as an English teacher at a local college, only to see her past and present collide when one of her students, Carson Mercury, turns in an assignment that reads like an eyewitness account of her brother’s murder, with details never revealed publicly.

Alarmed by Carson’s inside knowledge of Trenton’s death, Risa reaches out to her former partner at the FBI. Special Agent Gage Patterson has been working a string of baby kidnappings, but he agrees to help look into Carson’s background. Risa and Gage soon discover their cases might be connected as a string of high-value thefts have occurred at properties where security systems were installed by Carson’s stepfather and children have gone missing. There’s a far more sinister plot at play than they ever imagined, and innocent lives are in danger.

DiAnn Mills delivers romantic suspense fans a heart-pounding thriller about loss, betrayal, and finding the strength to trust again!

Praise for Facing The Enemy:

"Riveting! In her signature style, Diann Mills expertly weaves a gripping tale of ever-increasing danger. Captivating, authentic characters along with surprising twists and turns drew me deeper into this engrossing thriller and kept me on the edge of my seat until the last page. I still can’t stop thinking about it!"
~ Elizabeth Goddard, bestselling author of COLD LIGHT OF DAY

"I’m a longtime reader of suspense thrillers, but DiAnn Mills’ latest, FACING THE ENEMY, made me gasp with surprise. The issues involved in the story—adoption and the families who long to love children—are close to my heart, and that emotional connection held me by the heartstrings. Not to be missed! "
~ Angela Hunt, author of WHAT A WAVE MUST BE

Facing The Enemy Trailer:

Book Details:

Genre: Romantic Suspense
Published by: Tyndale House Publishers
Publication Date: September 2023
Number of Pages: 352
ISBN: 9781496451941 (ISBN10: 1496451945)
Book Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | | Goodreads | ChristianBook

Read an excerpt:

Chapter 1

Houston, Texas
July 29

Twelve years ago, my younger brother fell into an abyss of drugs and alcohol. He chose his addictions over Mom and Dad—and me. Prayers for healing fell flat, but none of us gave up, proving our belief in unconditional love. Then yesterday he called, and my hopes skyrocketed. Trenton said he missed me and wanted to make amends with his family, beginning with his older sis. We chose to meet at a popular restaurant for a late dinner within walking distance of my apartment.

A knock on my cubicle jolted me back to reality. Gage, my work partner, towered in the entryway and grinned. “Hey, what’s going on?”

The sound of his voice caused me to tingle to my toes. “Thinking.”

“Obviously, you were a million miles away.” His blue-gray eyes bore into mine, the intensity nearly distracting me.

I leaned back in my comfy, ergonomic chair. “My brother called.”

“Trenton? The guy you haven’t seen in years?”

“The same.”


“He wants to meet tonight for dinner, to talk about making amends.”

Gage shook his head. “Risa, he has a record a mile long. He’s planning on manipulating you, squeezing every penny he can get.”

I picked up an old photo of Trenton and me as kids. Dad had snapped it while we were in our tree house. I swiped at a piece of dust, then replaced it beside my photo of Mom and Dad. “I must give him a chance. He’s my brother.”

“What if he’s gotten himself in over his head and needs his FBI agent sis to bail him out?”

I bit into my lower lip. Gage’s words had a level of truth, even if I didn’t want to admit it. “I want to hear him out.”

Gage stepped closer. “I don’t want to see you hurt. Remember three years ago when he called you from a bar demanding money, cursed you until you hung up?” The soft gentleness in his whispered tone said more than friend to friend. “Think about canceling the dinner or let me go with you.”

Emotion rose thick in my throat. “You mean well, and I—” Catching myself, I nearly said love. “I appreciate your concern. But I’ll be fine. Want me to call you afterward?”

He nodded. “I can run by if you need to talk.”

I peered into the face of the man I adored. “I will. Promise.”


I arrived early at the restaurant to meet Trenton, anticipating his contagious smile perfected by an overpaid orthodontist. The phone attempted to keep my attention, but my mind swirled with how I wanted tonight to move forward against the reality of what had happened in the past.

The host approached me. Trenton walked behind him, towering several inches above the short man. I held my breath and stood, not feeling my legs, only my pulse speeding at the sight of my brother.

Trenton chuckled low, the familiar, dazzling, heart-crunching expression that had always touched me with sibling love. Clear brown eyes captured mine. Gone were the dilated pupils and bone-thin body. My brother held out his buff arms, and I rushed into them.

“Risa, you look amazing,” he whispered. “Thanks for seeing me on such short notice.”

“Nothing could have kept me away.” I stepped back, noting the miracle before me. Telling Mom and Dad wasn’t a part of tonight’s plan, but I wished they were here. We’d all be blubbering. I swiped at a tear and feared a humiliating sob would replace my already-fragile composure. “I want to remember this moment forever.” Please stay strong this time.

“Me too, Sis.” He gestured to the booth. “Sit, and let’s talk and eat.”

I slid in and he took the opposite side of the table. A server presented us with menus and asked for our drink order.

“We’ll have two Dr Peppers,” Trenton said.

He remembered my favorite drink. No mention of alcohol. I breathed in deeply to steady myself. I wanted our reunion to be special, not me a weeping mess. “I’ve missed you.”

Trenton cocked his head, and the mischievous brother from days gone by appeared. “I’ve been clean for four months. Working steady and enrolled in night school for the next college term.” He took my hands, and his features grew serious. “But before I say another word, I’m sorry. I promise you, I’ll never hurt you, Mom, or Dad again. Please forgive me for the mess I made of my life and dragging my family through the stench of it.”

I’d heard this before, from his teen years into his twenties. Dare I believe our prayers had been answered? “I forgave you years ago. All we ever wanted for you is a healthy body and mind.”

“Thanks, Sis. I know you’ve heard this ‘I’m sorry’ junk before, but I’m well on my way.”

His words warmed me like a quilt on a chilly night. “I can see it, feel it. Why tell me first instead of Mom and Dad?”

“Great times with you growing up that never left me.”

Memories rushed over me . . . The time we went camping by ourselves and it snowed. Birthdays. Christmases. All the treasured times I believed had vanished into the chasm of addiction.

The server returned with our drinks, and Trenton released my hands.

“Have you decided on your order?” the server said.

Neither of us had picked up our menus, but I often frequented the restaurant and ordered a vegan dish. Trenton opted for their pork chop and fixings.

“And I’ll take the bill.” He pointed at me. “No arguments.”

“My treat when we have dinner again.”

“Got it.”

“You were about to tell me something about us.”

He rubbed his palms on the thighs of his jeans. “Two things stand out. The first one happened when I was four, so that made you ten. You were watching me trying to climb an oak tree in the back yard. I was crying because my short legs couldn’t swing high enough. Then I felt your hand on my shoulder. You boosted me up onto the branch. Climbed up with me. No long after that, Dad built us a tree house.”

“I loved that tree house. You had your space and I had mine.”

“What I’ll always remember is what you said to me. ‘Trenton, I’m your big sis. I’ll always help you. I promise.’”

I blinked back the ocean of hopeful tears. “Thanks. I remember our times in the tree house, our private little world.”

“One more reason I contacted you. I was six and you were twelve. For three summers, Mom and Dad put me in swimming lessons, but I couldn’t put my head underwater. Not sure why. You convinced Mom and Dad that you could teach me how to swim. So every day we went to the neighborhood pool, and at the end of two weeks, I was swimming. I trusted you.”

I took a deep breath. Be aware of manipulation, Risa. “Thanks.” I raised a finger. “I remember being a high school junior and this jerk of a guy followed me home. Wouldn’t leave me alone. You punched him in the nose.”

Trenton laughed. “My voice hadn’t changed yet, but I wasn’t going to let him bother you.”

“That’s love, Brother.” Oh, Trenton, let this be for keeps. I’m afraid to believe the nightmare is over.

“And we’ll make many more crazy times together. Do you have plans for Saturday morning? I volunteer at a community center for kids at risk. We have a mixed basketball team, and I could use some help with the girls.”

I shivered. What a blessing to have my brother back. “All I need is a time and place.”

“You never fail me, Sis.” He took a long drink of his Dr Pepper. “Are you writing?”

I grinned. “Dabbling here and there.”

“I never understood why you left a safe job as a college prof and writer to the dangers of the FBI?” He shrugged. “Other than your wild side that you kept more in check than I did.”

“Teaching and writing short stories with a few successful publications failed to fill my adventure deficit. Every time I read about a crime, I wanted to be the one working the case. Dad said I couldn’t create a crime and solve it—I had to be actively involved.”

“Your personality better fits law enforcement. Still married to the FBI?”

I wiggled my shoulders. “Of course. Five years ago, I moved to the Violent Crime Division, specifically Crimes Against Children. It’s stressful and emotional, but protecting children suits me.”

He frowned. “Because of me?”

I blinked. “A little. My main reason is what happened to the little girl who lived across the street from us.”

“Right.” He shook his head. “I’m sorry her death still bothers you. Isn’t there a special team for finding missing kids?”

“Child Abduction Rapid Deployment or CARD. They’re an elite, specialized team, and that’s all they do. That’s not my role, but we often work together.”

“What do you investigate?” Trenton seemed interested in my job, another first.

“My partner and I investigate kidnappings, pedophiles, pornography, online predators, human trafficking, involuntary servitude, parental kidnapping, and any other situation that fell into the ‘violent crimes against children’ bucket.”

“I remember you were the neighborhood babysitter.” He gave me his unforgettable impish grin. “And I also remember how much fun you had learning how to handle a car at high speeds.”

I couldn’t conceal my laughter. “Guess I’m part daredevil. Blame Dad for that. I remember loving to watch him race cars.”

“He’d still be at it if Mom hadn’t insisted his speed-loving days were over.”

“When he taught me to drive, I learned a lot of tricks,” I said.

“He already knew I was danger on wheels and asked Mom to teach me.” He laughed. “Any potential brothers-in-law?”

I waved off his remark. My thoughts swept to Gage. Maybe I had found him, but that was a future conversation. “Nope. My job scares them off. I had more dates during my stint as a dull college professor.”

“You dull? Never. You just haven’t found the right guy. Pray about it, and if there’s a guy good enough for my sis, he’ll appear.”

I startled. “Did you say pray?”

“Think about it. Who but God could have turned me around? Helped me walk away from drugs, alcohol, and so-called friends?”

Even in his good days, Trenton had steered away from mentions of faith. Maybe he had changed. “I don’t know what to say.”

“That’s a first.” He chuckled. “You always had more words in one day than I had in a week. But honestly, no more jail. No more being tossed out of an apartment because I couldn’t pay the rent. No more waking up and not remembering the night before.”

Wow. A true miracle. I swiped at happy tears. “I can’t wait to tell Mom and Dad.”

He leaned over the table as though to tell me a secret. “I’ll do the honors very soon.”

When our food arrived, he asked to say grace. I was so glad our eyes were closed, or he’d have seen a leaky faucet. We chatted through dinner. Laughed about some of the goofy things we’d done as kids. Time seemingly stopped, and my half-full cup of blessings spilled over with joy.

“Will you tell me about your healing journey?” I said.

“You can hear for yourself when I talk to Mom and Dad.” He moistened his lips. “Do you trust me enough to walk you back to your apartment and call them from there? I mean, does your building have a lobby area with a little privacy?”

“It does, but you can call from my apartment. Trenton, they will be incredibly happy.”

“I hope so.”

I was so focused on our conversation that I didn’t think I tasted my favorite dish. We finished and he paid the bill. Outside the restaurant, a few people mingled, and the night sky hosted a half-moon, alerting me to how long Trenton and I had talked. I breathed in thankfulness and expectations for a positive tomorrow. At the crosswalk, we waited for the pedestrian sign to signal our turn.

“How long have you lived in this fancy high-rise?” he said as we ambled across the street.

“Two years. I like the busyness and excitement.”

“It must be in your DNA. One day, I want a small place in the country where it’s quiet.”

“Never for me. I’ll visit you though.” The humid heat mixed with exhaust fumes spiraled around us. “What are you taking in college?”

“Psychology. See if I can’t help a few kids understand life and avoid pitfalls.”

“Incredible. I’m so pro—”

Trenton grabbed my shoulders and thrust me several feet ahead next to the curb. I landed on my side and rolled over. What—?

A horrible thud.

A woman screamed.

Tires squealed.

Horns blew.

Stinging pain radiated up my leg, side, arm, and head. In agony, I managed to roll over and glance at the street.

My brother’s body lay in the intersection, a twisted mass of flesh and blood.


Excerpt from FACING THE ENEMY by DiAnn Mills. Copyright 2023 by DiAnn Mills. Reproduced with permission from DiAnn Mills. All rights reserved.



Author Bio:

DiAnn Mills

DiAnn Mills is a bestselling author who believes her readers should expect an adventure. She is a storyteller and creates action-packed, suspense-filled novels to thrill readers. DiAnn believes every breath of life is someone’s story, so why not capture those moments and create a thrilling adventure?

Her titles have appeared on the CBA and ECPA bestseller lists; won two Christy Awards; and been finalists for the RITA, Daphne Du Maurier, Inspirational Readers’ Choice, and Carol award contests.

DiAnn is a founding board member of the American Christian Fiction Writers, a member of Advanced Writers and Speakers Association, Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers, Jerry Jennings Writers Guild, Mystery Writers of America, and International Thriller Writers. She speaks to various groups and teaches writing workshops around the country.

DiAnn has been termed a coffee snob and roasts her own coffee beans. She’s an avid reader, loves to cook, and believes her grandchildren are the smartest kids in the universe. She and her husband live in sunny Houston, Texas.

DiAnn is very active online and would love to connect with readers:
BookBub - @DiAnnMills
Instagram - @diannmillsauthor
X - @diannmills
Facebook - @diannmills
YouTube - @diannmills



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This is a giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Tours for DiAnn Mills. See the widget for entry terms and conditions. Void where prohibited.



Get More Great Reads at Partners In Crime Tours


My Take: This book is told from two viewpoints, That of FBI partners Risa Jacobs and Gage Patterson. The whole book revovels around a child trafficking ring that has been stealing babies and selling them to parents who can't adopt the traditional way. They have also been targeting shelters for unwed mothers and offering the mothers money in exchange for their baby. When the ring feel like the FBI is getting to close things turn fatal for several people. This book was a page turner and you probably won't figure out some of the twist and turns this book will have in store for you. I gave this book a four out of five stars and would recommend it if you like suspense sprinkled with a bit of Christian Romance. I received a review copy of this book from Partners in Crime tours and was dnot required to leave a positive review and all opinions are my own.

Tuesday, August 15, 2023

Deadly Depths by John F. Dobbyn

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Deadly Depths

by John F Dobbyn

July 24 - August 18, 2023 Virtual Book Tour


Deadly Depths by John F Dobbyn

The death by bizarre means of his mentor, Professor Barrington Holmes, draws Mathew Shane into the quest of five archeologists, known to each other as "The Monkey's Paws", for an obscure object of unprecedented historic and financial value. The suspected murders of others of the Monkey's Paws follow their pursuit of five clues found in a packet of five ancient parchments. Shane's commitment to disprove the police theory of suicide by Professor Holmes carries him to the steamy bayous of New Orleans, the backstreets of Montreal, the sunken wreck of a pirate vessel off Barbados, and the city of Maroon descendants of escaped slaves in Jamaica. By weaving a thread from the sacrificial rites of the Aztec kingdom before the Spanish conquest of Mexico through the African beliefs of Jamaican Maroons and finally to the ventures of Captain Henry Morgan during the Golden Era of Piracy in his conquest and sacking of Spanish cities on the Spanish Main, Shane reaches a conclusion he could never have anticipated.

Praise for Deadly Depths:

"Deadly Depths gives readers characters they care about and gets hearts pumping as the mystery and adventure unfold!"
~ Janet Hutchings, Editor, Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine

"Deadly Depths is an exciting mystery novel that asks who has the right to seek and exploit lost treasures."
~ Foreword Reviews

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery, Crime Thriller
Published by: Oceanview Publishing
Publication Date: August 2023
Number of Pages: 320
ISBN: 9781608095483 (ISBN10: 1608095487)
Book Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | | Goodreads | Oceanview Publishing

Read an excerpt:

We arrived at an area of private docks in a town called Oistins. The driver stopped at the base of a wharf that anchored power boats of every size, speed, and description. One power yacht stood out as the choice of the fleet. The Sun Catcher. My guide hustled us both directly to the carpeted gangplank that led on board a vessel that could pass for a floating Ritz Carlton.

The engines were already revving. I was escorted to a padded deck-lounge with maximum view on the foredeck. I had scarcely settled in, when we were slicing through late-afternoon sea-swells that barely caused a rise and fall.

My guide, still in suit and tie, brought me, without either of us asking, a tall, cool, planter’s punch with an ample kick of Mount Gay Rum. For the first moment since Mick O’Flynn told me that someone was asking for me, I made a fully-considered decision. This entire fantasy could easily turn into a disaster that could outstrip New Orleans and Montreal together, but to hell with it. It was just too elating not to accept it at face value – at least for the moment.

My mind was just settling into a comfortable neutral, when I heard footsteps from behind that had more heft than I imagined my guide could produce. I made a move to swing out of the padded deck-chair, when I felt the touch of a hand with authoritative strength on my shoulder. The voice that went with it had the same commanding undertone.

“Stay where you are, Michael. I’ll join you.”

A matching deck-chair was set beside me. I found myself looking up at a shadow against the setting sun that appeared double my bulk and yet compact as an Olympic hammer-thrower. The voice came again. “You’re an interesting study, Michael. I may call you ‘Michael’, right? I should. I probably know more about you than anyone you know. You might have guessed that by now.”

An open hand reached down out of the shadow. I took it. The handshake fit the shaker. It took some seconds for the feeling to come back into mine.

Before I could answer, the voice was coming from the deck-lounge beside me. “No need for coy name games. You know that I’m Wayne Barnes. And you know that I’m one of the, shall we say, associates in that little clique we call the Monkey’s Paws. In fact, your escort here, Emile, tells me it was the mention of my name that swung your decision to get on that plane.”

He nodded to my nearly empty Planter’s Punch. “Another?”

Before I could answer, he gave a slight nod to someone behind us. Before I could say “Yes”, or possibly, but less likely, “No”, a native Bajan in a server’s uniform was at my left taking my empty and handing me a full glass.
I was three good sips into the second glass before I said my first word since coming aboard. I looked over at Wayne. I seemed to have his full focus. His engaging smile seemed to carry a full message of relaxed hospitality, and none of the threatening undercurrents I was scanning for. “You have an interesting way of delivering an invitation, Mr. Barnes”

He raised a hand. “Wayne.”

“’Wayne’ it is. You must have an interesting social life.”

“I do. Do you find it offensive?”

I looked over the bow, past the deepening blue crystal water to the reddening horizon. I felt the soothing caress of the slightly salted ocean breeze. I took one more sip of the most perfectly balanced planters punch of a lifetime, and looked back at Wayne. “Not in the slightest. Yet.”

“Ah yes, ‘yet’.”

“Right. I’m sure this won’t impress you, Wayne, and it’s not a complaint, but I’ve had a week full of enough tragedy to fill a lifetime. Hence the ‘yet’.”

His smile and focused attention remained. “I know more about your week, perhaps, than even you do. But go on.”

The second planter’s punch was having a definitely mollifying effect. “I have no idea what you mean by that last statement, Wayne, so I’ll just pass on. Given that week, and the abrupt transport from hell on earth to . . . paradise on earth, I’d have to be Mrs. Shane’s backward child not to listen for a second shoe to drop.”

The smile expanded. Still no alarms. “Or perhaps you’ve come into a sea-change of good luck, Michael. Why not go with that?”

“Why not indeed? For the moment. Just one question. ”

“Alright. One question. For now. Make it a good one.”

“Oh it is. It’s a beaut. Ecstatic as I am with all this, why the hell am I here?”

That brought a bursting laugh. “I think I’m going to enjoy having you around for a couple of days, Michael. You have an instinct for the jugular. No chipping around the edges. We won’t waste each other’s time.”

“Thank you. But that’s not an answer.”

“No it isn’t.” He looked out to the diminishing sunset. “The only answer I can give you at the moment that would do justice to the question is this. And you’ll just have to live with it for now. You’re here for a quick but depthful education. I think you’ll find it well worth two days of your life. Are you in?”

“Do I have a choice?”

We both looked back at the rapidly diminishing shore-line behind us. “None that comes to mind. Now are you in?”

That brought a smile from me, another healthy sip of the planter’s punch, and a deep breath of the ocean-fresh breeze. “I’m in.”

We chatted through the sunset on far-ranging subjects that had no association whatever with Monkeys Paws, Maroons, murder-suicides - in fact nothing that gave a clue as to why my gracious host had chosen my company over the undoubtedly vast range of his acquaintances. By then, the moon had risen.

At some point, I was aware that the engines had stopped. The splash of two anchors could be heard on either side. The sun had set. The shift from twilight to a darkness, penetrated only by a quarter moon went unnoticed.

I was slowly sipping away at my third or possibly fourth Planter’s Punch, when I became aware of a bobbing light approaching from the port side. Without interrupting the flow of conversation, I noticed that Wayne was following its approach with more than the occasional glance until it reached the side of the yacht.

Within a few minutes, my original guide, still in suit and tie, approached Wayne’s side with an inaudible whisper. I sensed that a bit of steel crept into Wayne’s otherwise conversational tone. “I’ll see him.”

I began to get up to provide privacy. Wayne held my arm in position. “Stay, Michael. Let your education begin.” My guide nodded to someone behind us and lit his path with a small flashlight.

I settled back, as a fiftyish man with narrow, cautious eyes and thinning grey hair that might have last been combed by his mother came up along Wayne’s right side. The loose wrinkles in his ageless cotton suit indicated that he might have been close to six feet, but for a constant stoop as if to pass under an unseen beam. The stoop caused his head to bob and gave him the look of one asking for royal permission to approach.

Wayne’s eyes turned to him. I noticed the stoop of the back became more noticeable. Wayne’s voice was calm and soft, but it commanded his visitor’s full attention. “Do you have it? I assume you wouldn’t be here without it, yes, Yusuf?”

The thin mouth cracked into a smile that conveyed no humor. “Of course. Of course. But perhaps our business . . .”

Wayne nodded toward me. “No fear. Mr. Shayne is here for an education. We shouldn’t deprive him of that, should we?”

The smile on the man’s lips did not match the apprehension in the tiny eyes, but he nodded. “As you say.”

“Then what are you waiting for?”

The man gave a slight glance to either side as if it were the habit of a lifetime. He reached into some deep pocket inside his suitcoat. I noticed a slight but tell-tale hesitation before he slipped out what appeared to be a hard, flat, roundish object, about seven inches across. It was wrapped in several layers of ragged cloth.

He held it until Wayne extended a hand and took it onto his lap. He laid it on the small tray on his stomach. He looked back at the man, who simply forced a smile .

“I assume it all went well?”

“Oh yes, Mr. Barnes. No problems,”

Wayne smiled back. “How I do love to hear those words.”

My eyes were glued to Wayne’s hands as he carefully peeled back one layer of cloth after another. When he turned over the last layer, the object in the shape of a disc sent out instant glints of reflections of the rising moonlight.

I could see Wayne running the tips of his fingers over the entire jagged surface of the disc. He took a flip cigarette lighter out of his pocket, opened it, and lit the flame. When he held it close to the object, I could make out the resemblance of a human face, coarsely pieced together from chips of green stone.

Wayne held it up toward me and ran the flame in front of it.

“Do you recognize it Michael?”

“I’m afraid not.”

He nodded. “Most wouldn’t. Your friend, Professor Holmes, would spot it immediately. The Mayans made death masks to protect their important rulers in their journey to the afterlife. They go back to around 700 A.D.”
“What stones are these? They look like jade.”

“Good spotting. The eyes were made of rare seashells.”

“And I assume valuable?”

He laughed again. “Right to the crux of the issue. Right, Michael.”

He turned the object over and ran his fingers over the back side of it. “One that apparently goes back as far as this, and belonged to the ruler we have in mind, the right collector will pay half a million. Isn’t that right, Yusuf?”

Yusuf’s grin was beginning to become genuine. “Oh yes. Oh yes. And more, as you would know, Mr. Barnes.”

Wayne swung his legs over the deck-lounge toward me. He sat up and very carefully replaced the wrapping that had covered the mask. He stood up and walked toward the man. “And the key to its value is that it is absolutely authentic.”

Wayne looked down at the grinning eyes of Yusuf for several seconds. I think I let out a yell that came from the pit of my stomach when Wayne hurled the wrapped object over side of the yacht, into the pitch blackness that absorbed it with barely a splash.

I thought that the man would crumble to the deck. He barely held his balance. In the blackness of the night, I couldn’t make out his features, but I know to a certainty that every drop of blood left his face.

Wayne called a uniformed attendant.

Before the man moved, Wayne took hold of his arm. I was almost as frozen to the spot as the man. I think we were both certain that he would be following the object into the blackness below.

Wayne held him close enough to speak directly into his ear, but spoke loudly enough, I’m sure, so that I could hear.

“It’s a fake, Yusuf. I’m sure you know that. But you’ll live to do me a service. You’re a delivery boy. Nothing more. I want you to take a message back to Istanbul. I want you to say just this. ‘You had my trust. I give it sparingly, and not twice. Rest assured, we’ll speak of this again.’ Do you have that Yusuf?”

The man had all he could do to nod.

Wayne signaled his attendant. “Take him back.”

The man was escorted, practically carried toward the back of the vessel. In a few minutes, I could see running lights heading away from the yacht.

Wayne sat back down. “What do you think, Michael? One more Planter’s Punch before dinner?”

I could only smile at the abrupt change of tone and subject.

“No? Then shall we go in to dinner. The chef should be prepared by now.”

When he stood up, I saw that he took something from under his deck-lounge. My mouth sprung open when a glint of light from an opening door of the yacht cabin lit up the death mask. I could see amusement in the smile of my host.

“What on earth did you throw overboard?”

“Oh that. I substituted my lap tray in the wrapping for the desk mask. I’ll keep the mask.”

“But if it’s a fake.”

“It is, but a fake by a well-respected forger of these antiquities. It has enough value for that reason alone to pay the expenses I’ve already incurred in acquiring it. Shall we go to dinner?”


Excerpt from Deadly Depths by John F Dobbyn. Copyright 2023 by John F Dobbyn. Reproduced with permission from John F Dobbyn. All rights reserved.



Author Bio:

John F Dobbyn

Following graduation from Boston Latin School and Harvard College with a major in Latin and Linguistics, three years on active duty as fighter intercept director in the United States Air Force, graduation from Boston College Law School, three years of practice in civil and criminal trial work, and graduation from Harvard Law School with a Master of Laws degree, I began a career as a Professor of Law at Villanova Law School. Twenty-five years ago I began writing mystery/thriller fiction. I have so far had twenty-five short stories published in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine and Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery magazine, and six mystery thriller novels, the Michael Knight/Lex Devlin series, published by Oceanview Publishing. The second novel, Frame Up, was selected as Foreword Review's Book of the Year.

Catch Up With John F Dobbyn:
BookBub - @JohnFDobbyn
Instagram - #JohnFDobbyn
Twitter - @JohnDobbyn
Facebook - @JohnFDobbynAuthor



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My Take: This was a pretty good thriller. Matthew Shane's friend Professor Holmes dies in what looks like an apparent suicide. But Matthew doesn't think so. He starts to do some invesitgation into the professor's death and it leads him to a secret group the professor belonged to called the Monkey's Paw. Matthew becomes involved with some adventures invovlving other members of the group and it takes him far and wide. With every twist and turn I was wondering what was going to happen next and what Matthew was going to be doing or where he was going to go next. If you like Indiana Jones type adventures then this is the book for you. I received a review copy of this book from Partners in Crime Book Tours and was not required to write a positive review.

Monday, July 31, 2023

Cold Pursuit by Nancy Mehl

Cold Pursuit

by Nancy Mehl

July 17 - August 4, 2023 Virtual Book Tour


Cold Pursuit by Nancy Mehl

Ex-FBI profiler River Ryland still suffers from PTSD after a case went horribly wrong. Needing a fresh start, she moves to St. Louis to be near her ailing mother and opens a private investigation firm with her friend and former FBI partner, Tony St. Clair. They're soon approached by a grieving mother who wants them to find out what happened to her teenaged son, who disappeared four years ago. River knows there's almost no hope the boy is still alive, but his mother needs closure, and River and Tony need a case, no matter how cold it might be.

But as they follow the boy's trail, which gets more complicated at every turn, they find themselves in the path of a murderer determined to punish anyone who gets in his way. As River and Tony race to stop him before he kills again, an even more dangerous threat emerges, stirring up the past that haunts River and plotting an end to her future.

Praise for Cold Pursuit:

"Guaranteed to captivate with plot twists you won't see coming."
~ Tosca Lee, New York Times bestselling author

"This story is sure to leave you breathless from the thrill of the ride. Hold on tight, it's about to get exhilarating!"
~ Lynette Eason, bestselling and award-winning author of the Extreme Measures series

"Cold Pursuit sucked me in from the first riveting page and pulled me deeper into an intricate, danger-filled plot."
~ Elizabeth Goddard, bestselling author of Cold Light of Day

Book Details:

Genre: Suspense
Published by: Bethany House Publishers
Publication Date: July 2023
Number of Pages: 336
ISBN: 9780764240454 (ISBN10: 0764240455)
Series: Ryland & St. Clair (#1)
Book Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | | | Goodreads | Baker Book House

Read an excerpt:

Synesthesia is a neurological phenomenon in which the stimulation of one sense triggers an instantaneous and involuntary experience in another. In other words, it causes two or more senses to cross. People with Synesthesia may be able to “hear” color, or “taste” sound. There are many kinds of Synesthesia, and people who have it sometimes have more than one type.
—The Synesthesia Network


River Ryland was convinced that madness exists only a breath away from genius. The man who stood in front of her and Tony had proven this to be true. He’d kept his identity hidden from the FBI’s best. Now River and Tony’s lives were about to end, and there was no one to save them.

Moonlight caused the river to sparkle as if it were layered with precious jewels. But the image didn’t provoke a sense of beauty. It spawned a feeling of terror so deep and evil that her body betrayed her. She couldn’t move. Why were they even here? She and Tony were behavioral analysts for the FBI, not field agents. They wrote profiles for the agents who were trained to confront insanity. A call from another agent had brought them here. “Come and see,” she’d said. “It’s important. I think we got it wrong.”

This was someone they trusted. Someone whose opinion mattered. Jacki was so smart. So naturally intuitive. And so surely dead. Why hadn’t River been alerted by the quiver in her voice? Why hadn’t the profiler profiled her friend and realized she was in trouble? She’d failed Jacki, Tony, . . . and herself. And now, without a miracle, she and Tony were going to die on the bank of this killer river—with moonlight standing guard over their execution.

“Come closer,” the man said to River, his face resembling a Greek theater mask. Was it Comedy or Tragedy? She wasn’t sure. She couldn’t think. Even though she willed her feet to move, she stayed where she was. It was as if her shoes had been glued to the ground. But that wasn’t possible, was it?

The man swung his gun toward Tony. “I said move. If you don’t, I’ll shoot your friend.”

River forced her feet from the spot where she stood. It took every ounce of strength and willpower she possessed. She locked her eyes with Tony’s. Slowly, she made her way toward the man in the moonlight, his gun glinting in the soft light as he pointed it at her. A line from Shakespeare’s Othello echoed in her mind. It is the very error of the moon; She comes more nearer earth than she is wont and makes men mad.

She turned her face toward the man who planned to take her life. She knew she shouldn’t panic. She knew how to fight. How to defend herself. She hated feeling so helpless. So afraid. This was the moment she desperately needed to summon the trained agent inside of her. The one who knew how to confront evil. Yet she was aware of how powerful this man was. How deadly. He’d killed eleven women that they knew of, not counting Jacki, but he’d teased authorities with letters claiming up to eighty. Although it sounded impossible, it wasn’t. Transient women went missing every day. Hookers. Teenagers living on the streets. The number could be right. The one truth that was indisputable? No one had ever survived him. No one.

When she was close enough to smell his sour breath, in one quick move, he swung the gun back toward Tony and fired four times. Tony fell to the ground.

River started to scream his name, but before she could make a sound, the killer’s hands were around her neck, squeezing. Choking the life out of her. Suddenly, something clicked on in her brain, like her alarm clock in the morning. She had to help Tony—if it wasn’t already too late. She struggled, hitting at this horror of a human being. This man full of death and destruction. Then she rolled her eyes back in her head and stopped breathing, holding her breath for dear life. And that’s exactly what it was. Life. Hers and Tony’s. She went limp, hoping the monster would think she was dead.

He finally dropped her on the ground and walked toward his car. She needed to gulp in air but was afraid he’d hear. Breathing in a little at a time hurt her chest, yet she had no choice. She began to crawl quietly toward the gun he’d taken from Tony. It lay only a few feet away. She had no idea where hers was, but that didn’t matter.

She heard him close the trunk. She scrambled as quickly as she could until her fingers closed around the barrel of the gun, but before she could pick it up, he was behind her. He hit her on the head, and she felt herself losing consciousness. She could only stare up at the moon and hate it for watching this happen.

The next sensation she experienced was throbbing pain in her head and neck. Her first reaction wasn’t relief, it was surprise. The pain was awful, but didn’t that mean she was alive? A flash of euphoria gave way to terror when she realized she couldn’t move. Where was she? Why was she wet? She couldn’t see anything, and her hands were bound in front of her. Her fingers reached out and touched something hard. What was it? When she realized she was trapped inside some kind of container—and that water was leaking in—she screamed out in horror. She was in a large chest. All of the Strangler’s victims had been found in the Salt River, and most of them were inside old trunks. But they’d been dead when they went into the water, and she was still alive. He’d done it on purpose because she’d come too close. He needed more than her death. He wanted her to experience the terror he knew his madness could create.

River struggled with all her might, but she couldn’t get free. She pulled her hands up to her mouth and tried to use her teeth to rip through the duct tape wrapped around her wrists. She realized immediately that there was too much of it. She couldn’t make enough progress to help herself before she was completely submerged. The river was seeping in, slowly but surely. She was on her side, and half of her head was already under water. She cried out in terror as she tried to push herself onto her back so she could clear her nose and mouth, but there wasn’t enough room. As hope faded, she did something she never thought she’d do again. Something she hadn’t done in many years. She prayed.

“God, please. If you’re real, if you care anything about me, save me. Get me out of here. I’m sorry I’ve been so angry at you. If you give me another chance . . .” She couldn’t get the rest of the words out because water filled her mouth and she began to choke. She’d swallowed some of it, and she couldn’t catch her breath. She was suffocating. Drowning. Just when she’d decided to give in to the inevitable and let death overtake her, something flashed in her mind. Right before the Strangler hit her . . . there was something. A movement on the hill behind them. Was someone watching? Had they gone for help? Was there a chance? As much as she wanted to believe it, another part of her thought it would be best to just relax and float away. Hope only brought disappointment, and she’d experienced too much of it. Still, she couldn’t help but grab onto a slim chance that . . .

That’s when she felt it. Movement. Something jostled the trunk. Was she being lifted out of the river? As the water level began to decrease inside the trunk, River began to cry. She was going to live. “Thank you, God,” she croaked. “Thank you.”

He was convinced he’d been born to be exceptional. He was certainly smarter than these weak, feckless creatures who revolved around his genius. Was he a god? Or was he a demon? Who was smarter, God or Lucifer? It seemed Lucifer had certainly ruined the plan of the Almighty. If God was really the Creator of all things, how was it that one of His creations was able to rebel and cause such havoc on Earth? Seemed to him that the devil was the winner of that particular contest.

So, on whose side was he working? Being honest about it, he didn’t really care. He only knew that the desire to rid the world of those who were unworthy of life burned in him like a fire. One that he had no power or will to quench. It was his destiny. His reason for living. His fate had been decided for him many years ago, and he’d accepted it gladly. Lucifer or Jehovah. It didn’t matter.

Some would call what he’d done sin. But what was sin anyway? Perhaps it was the road less traveled because of fear of retribution. He didn’t fear judgment. His god didn’t threaten him. Instead, he only fueled the glorious desire that clawed and scratched inside him, demanding release.

He especially enjoyed pitting himself against those who called themselves righteous because they had the ability to forgive. Forgiveness was for the feeble-minded. He would never forgive. He hated anyone who considered themselves moral or spiritually justified and had promised the voice that whispered in the darkness that he would never fail to respond to its unending song of reckoning against them.

He laughed suddenly, the sound echoing around him. These idiotic cattle thought they’d defeated him, but he had a surprise for them. All he had to do was wait. They would rue the day they’d tried to cage him.

The killing hadn’t stopped. It had only just begun.

Chapter One

Brian woke up shivering again, calling out for his mother and father. As he looked around the small room he rented in the rundown boarding house, reality sunk in. He had no idea where his parents were, and even if he could find them, they didn’t want him. They’d stuck him in that residential facility until he was eighteen, like some kind of unwanted dog left in the pound. They’d paid the hospital boatloads of money for all those years, yet when he’d been released there was no family waiting to take him home. So why was he still having the same nightmare? Would it ever leave him alone?

Before they’d kicked him out, the social worker at the hospital had found him a job, but if he wanted to keep it, he had to visit a therapist every week. He hated going, but he couldn’t walk away from his job. Although he didn’t make much, at least he could pay for this room. Fredric, a kind man who’d worked in the hospital cafeteria, had helped him find this rooming house and had even paid his rent for two months. Brian was grateful for Fredric’s help, but this place was really awful. Paint peeling off the walls. A shared bathroom for all three rooms on this floor, which was usually dirty. The guy who lived across the hall drank and didn’t flush the toilet. And at night the cockroaches came out. Brian didn’t blame Fredric. He’d done everything he could with his limited funds. Brian blamed his parents. They were rich. They could have helped him. Kept him safe. Brian hated them with every fiber of his being.

When he was very young, they were attentive—even loving. But as he grew older, and they realized he was different, everything changed. Although he’d never met his father’s father, he’d heard the whispers—that Brian was crazy, just like his grandfather had been. When he first began to tell his parents what he was experiencing, they seemed concerned. Then when doctors informed them he was hallucinating and that he needed professional help, the way they looked at him changed. The word schizophrenia became his enemy—and his identity.

At first, his father appeared to care for his broken son, but as his mother applied pressure, he began to distance himself—just as she had. It was clear he wasn’t the child they’d wanted. And then his brother was born. And his sister. They were perfect. As he grew older and his problems began to increase, it was obvious that his mother only saw him as an embarrassment. Something that interfered with their perfect lives. Thankfully, in their eyes, God had shown them mercy and given them the children they deserved, so sending him away solved their dilemma. He had a memory of his parents fighting one night. His father wanted Brian to stay with them, but his mother had threatened to leave him and take his ideal children away. Finally, his father gave in. Brian hated him even more than his mother for caving in to her demands. For turning his back on the son that needed him so desperately. After he went to live in that terrible hospital with its white walls, disinfectant smells, locked doors, and abusive staff, his parents began to visit him less and less. The more he begged them to take him home, the more uncomfortable they became, and by the time he was thirteen, they stopped coming altogether. As he remembered the anger he’d felt, bad words swirled around in the air, each letter a different color. As they turned red, he mouthed the words he saw, and rage built inside him. He would need to release it soon.

Suddenly his alarm clock went off, causing the air around him to pulsate. He hit the alarm and pushed himself up from the bed. It was an especially cold November. The blanket he’d purchased from Goodwill wasn’t enough to keep him warm, especially in this drafty room, but it was all he could afford if he wanted to pay his rent and eat. As his teeth chattered, the word cold floated in front of his eyes. He couldn’t hold back a sneeze that made his mouth feel funny. He swiped at the bad words that started flying around his head.

“Stop it!” he said loudly. Immediately, he put his hand over his mouth. What if someone complained because he was too loud? No matter what, he couldn’t lose this room. He had nowhere else to go, and he didn’t want to live on the streets. That was a nightmare he couldn’t face.

The afternoon sun shone through a gap in the curtains on his window, but it brought no warmth. He took off his sweatpants and sweatshirt and hurried over to the decrepit chest of drawers where he kept his clothes. He pulled out his work pants and some clean underwear. Then he went over to the hooks on the wall where he hung his three work shirts. There was only one clean shirt left. He’d have to go to the laundromat tomorrow. That could be a problem since he had to see his therapist in the morning. He’d have to wake up early to get everything done. He glanced at the clock on the top of his dresser. Four o’clock. He needed to leave by five-thirty to get to work on time. At least the cleaning company left him alone, since they trusted him and knew he would get the job done. As long as he had a place to live and he could keep his fifteen-year-old car running, he would keep showing up.

His supervisor usually only showed up once a week to collect Brian’s time sheet. He used to check his work, but he didn’t anymore. Most importantly, the man never gave him the look. Brian hated that look. The one he saw on his parents’ faces before they’d shipped him off. Rage burned inside him toward normal people who laughed at him and treated him as less than human. As he headed toward the bathroom, the word blood pulsated in front of his eyes, and he could almost taste its sugary aroma in his mouth.


Excerpt from Cold Pursuit by Nancy Mehl. Copyright 2023 by Nancy Mehl. Reproduced with permission from Baker Book House. All rights reserved.



Author Bio:

Nancy Mehl

Nancy Mehl ( is the author of almost fifty books, a Parable bestseller, as well as the winner of an ACFW Book of the Year Award, a Carol Award, and the Daphne Du Maurier Award. She has also been a finalist for two Carol Awards, and the Christy Award. Nancy writes from her home in Missouri, where she lives with her husband, Norman, and their puggle, Watson. To learn more, visit

Catch Up With Our Author:
BookBub - @NancyMehl
Twitter - @NancyMehl1
Facebook - Nancy Mehl Fan Page



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My Take: I really liked Cold Pursuit which is the first book in a new series Ryland + St. Clair. I thought the mystery was really good and it kept my attention. The book left you waiting for the next book which I will be reading to find out what happens. It was interesting to go behind the scenes abit with FBI profilers and to realize that they don't always get the profile right. I look forward to the next book. I received a review copy of this book from Partners in Crime Book Tours in exchange for a review. All opinions are my own and I was not required to write a positive review.